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Startup Spotlight: With Its Flagship Multi Cancer Early Detection Tool, UAE-Based Detectiome Is Addressing Multiple Pain Points For Patients Detectiome aims to address a number of issues, the first of which is the late detection of cancers, which is often when the disease has reached a terminal stage.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

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Detectiome
Arman Vali, co-founder, Detectiome

This article is part of an ongoing series covering startups that have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.

For many in the world today, there is a considerable level of fear or anxiety associated with even the utterance of the word 'cancer.' But that needn't necessarily be the case, according to Arman Vali, co-founder of UAE-headquartered precision cancer screening platform Detectiome, who says that there is a way to ensure that the ruthless disease is nipped in the bud- or, at least, managed better. "The advent of multi cancer early detection (MCED), powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) and liquid biopsy technologies, offers a promising solution," Vali explains. "A cancer super test that can detect most cancers at the earliest stage with just a blood test- this is the magic of precision diagnostic testing, which is a branch of precision medicine that designs tests based on the genetic and epigenetic [changes in gene function or activity that don't involve changes in one's DNA sequence] codes of each individual."

Detectiome has thus come up with its own flagship MCED tool, Revonco, specifically for the UAE population. "Our product, a highly accurate blood test, can detect multiple cancers simultaneously and is aimed to be available through clinics, hospitals, and concierge medicine services," Vali explains. "It is designed to be easily performed -as just a blood test- and scalable to the whole population to improve patient outcomes and change the cancer journey. It empowers healthcare providers to expand their offerings with advanced, yet affordable, cost-effective services. Our test presents remarkable value, especially when compared to performing multiple single cancer tests, which are invasive and expensive and only cover four types of cancer, as opposed to our test, Revonco, that can detect the top 15 most prevalent cancers."

Source: Detectiome

Now, with Revonco, Detectiome aims to address a number of issues. The first of these is the late detection of cancers, which is often when the disease has reached a terminal stage. "We aim to change the course of cancer care by detecting cancer at its earliest stage, when the treatments are more efficacious, and less invasive," Vali says. "The primary challenge in cancer care is late detection, which significantly contributes to the disease's mortality rate. Treating cancer at advanced stages -stage 3 or 4- is not only costly and painful, but also often not as effective, with around an 80% mortality rate. Compare that with the mortality rate of just around 11% when cancer is detected at early stages. Despite these statistics, cancer is usually detected at a late stage, since not all cancers have screening tools available, and traditional single cancer tests, like colonoscopies, are limited in scope, invasive, expensive, and difficult to scale, making a comprehensive approach to cancer detection nearly unattainable."

Related: Startup Spotlight: Abu Dhabi-Based MDBX Health Offers A One-Stop-Shop For Effective Chronic Disease Management

Vali's claims, of course, are backed by hard data. A June 2022 paper released by the American Association for Cancer Research shows that more than 75% of cancerrelated deaths occur from cancers that are not screened for. But while MCED products have been a welcome innovation in the field of healthcare, there also exists an innate challenge in how it can be used- or rather who it can be used for. "Precision medicine provides a far superior performance compared to traditional approaches; however, the curse and the blessing of precision medicine -both therapeutics and diagnostics-is that it is precise!" Vali elaborates. "If you develop it for a population, it works great for that particular population, but not so much for others. The reality is that today, all precision diagnostics are being developed in the US and Europe and work for those genetic populations for practical and financial reasons. We changed that paradigm at Detectiome, and have developed our proprietary AI systems, which are an order of magnitude more efficient than traditional precision diagnostics and liquid biopsy leaders. With this breakthrough AI innovation, we developed and tailored our liquid biopsy product for smaller populations, such as the UAE, much faster, and with much less cost. In fact, Detectiome is the only company in the world that makes precision diagnostics and liquid biopsy solutions specifically for the genetic population of the Middle East."

Detectiome's entry in the UAE market in 2022 thus marked an important step towards creating an MCED roster specifically for the people in this country. Which is why Vali notes that the official launch of his startup's flagship MCED, Revonco, during the 2023 edition of GITEX Global -a global tech and startup event held annually in Dubai- was a significant milestone. "The efficacy of liquid biopsy precision diagnostic products, which are primarily developed based on the US and European populations, is considerably reduced in the Middle East, due to differences in genetic background, with their performance dropping by up to 50%," Vali continues. "This gap in the healthcare landscape motivated us to start Detectiome. We've developed the first UAE-born liquid biopsy product, and the first ever precision diagnostic tool tailored for the genetic population of the Middle East. Our goal now is to enable all regions, including the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and India, to gain access to the life-saving technology of precision diagnostics regardless of their genetic background, addressing a critical need in global health equity."

Dr. Soheil Damangir, co-founder, Detectiome. Source: Detectiome

To reach such lofty goals, Vali and his team are currently engaged in discussions with different government and private stakeholders in the UAE to initiate a number of pilot studies, as well as to launch pivotal clinical trials. And along the way, the startup has been able to find its footing in the market owing to the help it's received from accelerator programs such as that of the MBRIF. "As a deep tech startup, we recognize the importance of accelerators that not only support innovation, but also contribute to future advancements within the UAE," Vali says. "The MBRIF Innovation Accelerator Program stood out to us because of its commitment to fostering innovative startups, and its focus on introducing solutions and products that align with the nation's forward-looking vision. The alignment of their experience in relevant fields, along with their values and objectives, with our mission was almost a perfect match. Our experience with the MBRIF has only reinforced our initial impression, and even though we are still in the middle of their program, the support we've received so far has been immensely beneficial."

Having thus quietly nestled itself amid the UAE's innovative healthcare landscape, Vali now hopes that his startup's values will continue to guide its path forward. "Innovation is at the core of our startup," he declares. "We have made a number of innovations from day one, and we see innovation as the heartbeat of our company. Our commitment to innovation is embedded in every facet of our product. This dedication to progress and innovation is directly manifested in the superior test performance, while simultaneously reducing the cost of population screening, positioning our technology at the cutting edge of early cancer detection, and, of course, saving as many lives as possible!"

Related: Startup Spotlight: HealthStay Aims To Tap Into The UAE's Burgeoning Medical Tourism Industry

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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